On the eve of the release of the new Cribs album, “In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull”, Charles Brownstein talked with Ryan Jarman about the making of the latest songs, getting a chance to play the odd intimate gig, and a few favourite records from Ryan’s personal collection.
CB: You guys have been playing smaller stripped down shows of late, like the Crocodile in Seattle and Holocene in Portland. You must really enjoy still playing intimate gigs.
RJ: Yeah definitely, they’re just so much more natural and fun I think, and in a lot of ways they feel like our natural environment as we spent years doing endless van tours in the UK when we
first started out, so the last tour of the US was very enjoyable for us after getting used to the bigger venues and festivals etc back home. It was a good time.
CB: I always have to ask the question to bands that are comprised of family members. Especially you guys, three brothers + 1 guitar player. What’s it like constantly being surrounded by family now that yer all a little older?
RJ: It’s really all we’ve ever known and I still think it’s good for us as I really couldn’t imagine being in a band that’s lasted this long if it wasn’t for the fact we were all brothers. The understanding and lack of egos we have because of this dynamic is really important. I don’t know…I never think about it to be honest.
CB: The Cribs have been described as the “the biggest cult band in the UK” that’s a pretty flattering statement. Although you guys do draw some pretty big crowds in Europe.
RJ: Yeah I guess, but it’s never been down to the more mainstream channels so I guess that’s where that description came from.
CB: The band was really courted by some heavyweight labels in your earlier days. You decided to go the more independent Wichita Recordings, was this a tough decision?
RJ: Not at all really as our meeting with them was just going for a couple of drinks and talking about all the records we liked, as opposed to being wined and dined by people trying to impress us. We had a couple of labels in our head that we’d ideally like to sign to and they were one of
them so when they wanted us it seemed like the obvious decision. We have been on and dealt with major labels in other territories and it doesn’t feel natural for us, Wichita allow us to do whatever we want and feeling liberated is really the most important thing to us.
CB: You guys have worked with so many great producers including Edwyn Collins, Nick Launay, Dave Fridmann, and Alex Kapranos. Some bands like to work with the same people every album, are
you constantly trying to evolve your sound?
RJ: I think it’s just a case of always wanting to try someone new or something different, I think if you worked with the same person over and over it’s a missed opportunity really.
CB: What kind of record can we expect from “In The Belly Of a Brazen Bull” Can you give me a bit of background about the album title?
RJ: The album title came from a book I was reading when we went to Iceland once, it was about all the different kinds of execution devices that have been employed over the years and the brazen bull was just the most sinister seeming out of all of them. It was a hollow brass bull that people were put in and then a fire stoked underneath so they burned to death in it’s belly. The thing about it that was so macabre though is that flutes were put in it’s nose so that the screams from within were turned into music. It just kind of stuck in our head because it was so creepy and Gary came up with the idea of the title quite a while ago, so we knew that the record was going to be called that when we went in to record. As a record, we’ve tried to keep things quite raw and live as that is always the way we’ve been inclined, although that said we recorded a 4 song suite in Abbey Road so there is definitely a lot of different stuff going on.
CB: You guys seem to love the Pacific Northwest, you’ve recorded a couple of albums in Portland and Vancouver. Is this part of the world inspiring to you?
RJ: Yes, we really like it out there and obviously Gary lives there now so we get to spend quite a lot of time there writing which I think has been really positive for us. I think it’s really nice to be able to change your scenery when you’re writing because it refreshes you and you feel inspired in different ways. Wakefield is such a grim working class northern English town and although the
climate may be similar in Portland the cities couldn’t really be any more different attitude-wise. I
guess when I was growing up a lot of things I was into came out of that part of the world too so it
feels familiar to me now. I like the fact that a lot of the pacific north west is flanked by mountains
too, it just feels good.
CB: Can you tell me which five albums have been really important to you?
RJ: Pinkerton by Weezer – I don’t really like any of the albums that came after this, the Green album was OK, but this came out when I was 16 and I just listened to it over and over. I love the loose conceptual feel of it and the stripped back production, that’s largely the reason we wanted
to work with Dave Fridmann.In Utero by Nirvana – I was a fan of them anyway when this came out and it was just the fiercest record I had heard at that point in my life as I was only 12. I loved the recording, the lyrics, the performance, everything. Just changed my opinion on what punk rock was I suppose.Innuendo by Queen – such a heavy record, i remember it coming out when I was really young around the time that Freddie died and the fact he made this record knowing it was definitely going to be his last blew my mind and still continues to. It has such a distinct vibe to it, a lot of gravity. Plus, some of their very best songs too.The Golden Age by Bobby Conn – my favourite record of the last few years, I just love everything about it. I got it just as the band was starting and it was all we listened to that summer (2002). So many different styles going on and yet it’s really cohesive. Bobby at hiss poppy, incredibly odd best.
Taking The Rough With The Smooch by Huggy Bear – perhaps the punkest record I can think of, full of polemic, passion and poetry.
Please credit photo to Steve Gullick